Congress Shuts Down Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

There were a lot of big stories in the news this week but my vote for the most significant would be this one about shutting down Stuart Bowen’s program. Congress appears to be surrendering more of its oversight authority and diminishing the Government’s ability to police itself and federal contractors.

Congress, at the last minute, quietly slipped a provision into a military authorization bill that will shut down a highly successful group that’s been investigating corruption by military contractors. It seems the investigators have worked themselves out of a job. Maybe somebody was feeling the heat.

Contractors, such as Halliburton-KBR, Parsons, Bechtel, CACI, and Blackwater, will have less incentive to be accountable and will no-doubt remember the favor when the Congressmen who helped them call them up for a campaign contribution.

According to the New York Times November 3, 2006 article by James Glanz,

Investigations led by Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces…

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Bowen, a Republican, has overseen investigations resulting in the convictions of several people in connection with a bribery scheme. His office estimates that its audits have saved the government more than $400 million. For example, auditors reviewed 14 projects by one contractor, Parsons Corp., and found that 13 had serious defects. Among the problem contracts was one to build 142 health clinics. Only six have opened. Yet Parsons will not have to return any of its profit, nor is it likely to face any kind of formal punishment. Its contracts were what are called “cost-plus” deals, widespread in Iraq, in which the government bears much of the risk.

This comes on the heels of, reportedly, a much bolder move (and, again, barely publicized) by the powerful House Appropriation Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) of firing

“60 investigators who had worked for his committee rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, effective immediately. As in, don’t bother coming in on Tuesday.”

Perhaps somebody was getting nervous.

If citizens have questions about the way Congress does business, and care anything about government accountability, they’ll have to elect a new Congress that will reopen investigations.

Cross-posted from Sustainable Middle

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3 Responses to Congress Shuts Down Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

  1. Ny says:

    What is equally disturbing it that no one claims to know how that provision made its way into what is called the conference report??!! 😕

  2. Ny:

    The Times article didn’t go into a lot of detail. I inferred that the Republicans on the Armed Services Committee put the provision in during closed-door conference, but the Democrats objected and all agreed to take it out. However when the final bill came out, it was still in there.

    Based on your comment, I wonder now what really happened. Would be good to know who was “pulling the strings.”

  3. I was wondering if it was a signing statement. I mentioned it another post a couple of days ago. It’s not unlike the Repubs to slip things in after the fact though. I rmember they did this with something else a while back.